Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster recently asked female leaders at companies in the Microsoft Partner Network to share some of their best career stories and advice in celebration of International Women's Day.
Schuster, in turn, shared the submissions as part of a Microsoft Partner Network blog post on Thursday.
Schuster noted that the Women in Technology chapters of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners have grown from 15 communities in 2014 to 56 communities in 2018, which she said is "thrilling to see."
But industry-wide, "we're moving in the wrong direction," she said. While women held 36 percent of computing jobs as of 1995, that number is now 26 percent, Schuster noted.
"Today is a day for us to reflect, recruit, and re-energize - to come together and drive the movement. It's up to us to proactively bring more women into the industry. I hope the words of these successful, boundary-pushing women move and motivate you," said Schuster, a corporate vice president and head of the One Commercial Partner organization at Microsoft, in the post.
Here is a selection of the stories—you can read them all on the Microsoft Partner Network blog.
"Early in my career, I became accustomed to being the only female in the room, instructing a class full of male IT professionals. I always knew I was capable of leading others outside of the classroom, too. Determined to carve my place in the male-dominated industry, I founded Directions Training in 1991. With the support of coworkers, friends, and mentors, I began building the company into what it is today-delivering training in more than 70 countries and training more than 500,000 people. I will always be grateful and dedicated to other women who share the entrepreneurial spirit, and through organizations like IAMCP WIT I try to foster that spirit in another generation of women leaders."
President and CEO, SHI
"Going to business school in the 1980s was highly unusual for Asian or Asian-American women. But I was too focused on learning everything I would need to know about business to spend time thinking about that. My long-term goal of being an entrepreneur meant I would need to learn from, hire, partner with, and count on the best people I could find willing to take this chance with me. Intentional or not, I am proud that today's SHI is an organic meritocracy of empowered women and men working together to ensure the success of our company!"
President, Sharp Perspective
"I have always had strong female mentors in my career in tech. Even when I was just starting out, the CEO, Sales VP, Marketing VP, and IT VP were all women. There are three pieces of advice that I've lived by over the years, and I share them with others starting their careers.
1. Understand the experience I need to get me where I want to go. It's not about titles or jobs, it's about the knowledge I can gain by doing, listening, and observing.
2. Have and be a great mentor. These role models offered me a wealth of insight and advice. Women inspire women to be their best selves.
3. Build and nurture your network-it's one of the most important assets you have. My network has become my superhighway that gets me where I want to go.
I remember how important it was for me to see women in leadership roles break down barriers, build businesses, and take the time to share experiences even if they didn't realize others were watching-just like my younger self."
President and CEO, Synergy Technical
"Many years ago, when I took my first technology leadership role, a friend gave me good advice: 'Don't worry about being the only woman in the room; worry about being the most prepared in the room.' That advice has served me well through many corporate roles, from being a technology director, to the CIO (and only female executive) in a multi-national organization, to making the giant leap to leading Synergy Technical as CEO. I've been deliberate in surrounding myself with people, both men and women, who through their experience, guidance, and mentorship have made sure that I was the most prepared I could be for the situation at hand. When I felt like I wasn't well prepared, I found someone through my network who had been-there-done-that and asked for help. I've passed this same advice on many times."
CEO, ResourceiT Consulting
"I believe there has never been a better time to be a female in the IT Industry. With global organizations like Microsoft leading the way for gender-neutral progression women now have a greater opportunity than ever to realize their ambitions. In my first job at the tender age of 16, my female boss drilled in to me that 'no' means 'Let's negotiate!' Under her leadership, I progressed through to a manager's role before I was 21. But boy, it was hard back then. Since launching my own business in 2003, now a global organization, I have never forgotten that early advice and would say to every woman out there, you can do anything you want. Remember this: Behind every successful woman, there is a tribe of other women who have her back. Ladies, we've got this."